Put on a Guy Fawkes Mask, Bring Transparency Back to Texas


The empire never ended.

You may have heard that the hackers at Anonymous have exposed what they say are internal emails from dozens of Texas police agencies. If you missed the story, here's a quick refresher course from the Daily Mail:

In one email to a senior Texas police official…it was written: 'That stupid b**** who started that stolen car chase at Yale and 610 got what she deserved (I'll bet she was fat and black too).

'Same with that pervert that got shot by the county. F*** that guy, see ya. That all sounds like good police work to me.

'Those folks got the criminal cure. It's guaranteed, they will never commit a crime again.'

Other emails contained offensive theories about Muslim inbreeding and the details of complaints of a police officer's affair with a married woman.

Now Scott Henson, author of the excellent civil liberties blog Grits for Breakfast, has chimed in with some relevant historical background:

Back in the good old days before the Texas Supreme Court and the Legislature gutted access to law-enforcement information under the Public Information Act ('96-'97), one saw frank discussions like these in response to open records requests fairly frequently, up to and including expressions of racial prejudice, etc.. But the state has so diminished the public's access to law-enforcement records that now departments can usually screen such embarrassing tidbits by claiming they don't exist, pretending they're part of an ongoing investigation, or simply dropping charges in a particular case, since the public now only has access to information in cases resulting in a conviction.

"In that environment," Henson concludes, "a hacker group like Anonymous is probably the only way to expose such dirty little secrets. Twenty years ago virtually all this information would be public."